THE ULTIMATE LIFE
The Most Important Gift
"If I had to pick one gift out of all the gifts that I've written about," says Stovall, "it would be the gift of a day. We all want to have a great life, we want to have a great year, we want to have a great month, but it all comes down to today. It doesn't matter who you know or what you do or what you have. What matters," he continues, "is what we do today, and we're only as good or as bad as the next thing we do, so if you want to have a great life, you've got to start by having a great day today. I think you've got to look at every day as a gift and how you spend it is an important investment in your life."
When asked about the most important gift, Eldridge explains, "I think that if you make a great family film it can't be made without faith. We try to tell stories that inspire, that can engage people in issues of life that we all deal with. I've never had the option to deal with being a billionaire, but I think we all deal with issues of wanting a little more than we have and the message of this story is gratitude. To be grateful for the things that we do have flows through The Ultimate Life. Telling a story like this is challenging because you want to be able to give the message without it being too preachy. We want to tell a story that everyone can identify with or can say 'Yes, I've been there. I know what this is about' or can have fun with and be inspired and entertained at the same time."
Logan Bartholomew, who plays Jason Stevens, feels that the most important gift is that of family. "The importance of making sure that you know that family is forever," he says. "Family is something that you should always hold close to you and never separate yourself from them no matter how much money is involved or other situations that may separate you from them."
"I think that in today's world, especially," he continues, "that people need to step back and look at themselves and see what they can do to make a difference. See what they can do to change what they feel is wrong, and as long as you do that, you're going in the right direction."
For Ali Hillis, the most important gift is that of forgiveness. "Love is a given," she says.
"This movie reminds us that people can change and that's really important to me," she continues. "It's one thing that I maintain in my life and my relationships with my family, with my friends, that change isn't a bad thing. It takes a lot less energy to change than it does to keep on being determined to act a certain way. That gets a little exhausting."
Bill Cobbs favorite gift is actually two gifts. "The first gift is that of friendship," he says. "That's very important. And then the other is the gift of work. Always a gift."
All three of Stovall's Ultimate books were Lee Meriwether's favorite gifts. "I suggest a weekend where you can go see The Ultimate Life first and then get the DVD and watch The Ultimate Gift because you can see the progression, but it doesn't really matter all that much and then read The Ultimate Journey. There are life lessons to be learned all throughout which is wonderful and there's nothing preachy. No, no, not at all. When it's filmed the right way, it's a wonderful experience for any moviegoer. Really fun time in the theater."
"You need to be grateful for everything," says Austin James, who plays the young teenaged Red Stevens. "Remember that money isn't everything and really appreciate the relationships that you have and your family and friends, because that's what's going to be left behind when you go. However much you want to be famous or successful and have a lot of money, it's the relationships that you leave and the memories that you leave that are going to be remembered when you're gone."
Finding the most important gift was hard for Abigail Mavity, the teenaged Hanna. "That's a tough one," she says. "I think to me the most important gift is the gift of hard work. That's something that's always been important to me and my family growing up. I grew up in this business but my parents made me get a part-time job mopping floors at the mall so that I would learn how to work and learn about work ethic. I think if somebody has a good work ethic, they can really do anything and accomplish anything."
"I think that the message that people can change is so important because everybody is imperfect," continues Mavity. "Everybody is going down their own path and we all make mistakes and make wrong turns and it's very easy to get caught up in those things. Everybody has something in their life they want to change."
Jack Depew, Gus at 17, agrees with Logan Bartholomew's choice of the important gift. "I would say the most important gift is realizing that you need to keep your friends close but keep your family closer. As my parents have always said,' your friends are the family you choose, and in doing so, you have to choose them wisely.'
"I think that because time moves so fast and because we're only here for so long, that once we realize that we're on the wrong path, being able to change that is great."
Red Stevens from 30-43 is played by Drew Waters. To him the most important gift is that of love. "I think love would be first," he explains. "Because without a warm loving heart or knowing that you're cared for or cared about, you don't have a true, honest direction in life. People in society tend to fill the void of love with busy work and other things, being an addict or being obsessed, and I think love balances that at the end of the day."
Elizabeth Bennett, Hanna from 30 to 43, believes that "it's important to remember other people and how we affect them. You can change someone's life by the way that you treat them. There are so many paths that we can choose and if we get off on the wrong foot, we can go the wrong way and make bad decisions, but it's so important to know that you can always come back."
Dane Northcutt, who plays Gus at 40, thinks that "the most important thing that anyone can take away from this project is that money is grand and obviously it buys a lot of things in life, but our relationships with people are by far the most important because they're lasting. We can leave an indelible impression on everyone that we come in contact with, and it's either going to be good or bad. Hopefully, we leave a positive impression in our wake wherever we go."
A personal gift is Bechir Sylvain's choice for the most important. Portraying 30-year-old Hamilton, he says, "The gift that I consider the most important is one that I received personally. It was the gift of surrender. I don't think it's been done as one of the gifts, but surrendering is something that I think a lot of people need to know about. There is a moment when you have to surrender and let go and you know that it is a fact, and you know God will have your back. And I think that's something that more people need to do and I'm learning it more throughout my career and my life."
"The most important thing I can pass on," says Peter Fonda who portrays Jacob Early, "is to listen. And I would be most gratified if I thought the audience could take away the idea of being yourself and being comfortable being yourself. So many people want to be other things than what they are and they end up with terribly sad lives or they pick something that's totally out of their realm. I would like for people to come out of this film with a realistic attitude of bettering life, bettering themselves, bettering the people around them."
David Mann who plays Hobo Joe adds his thoughts. "What I'm finding is we're in a generation of lost hope," he says. "We don't believe that we can achieve or can be successful in our dreams. And I think that what the movie speaks to is, look, this guy had a goal and he just made up in his mind, 'This is my goal.' And although there were things sacrificed along the way, he wasn't afraid to dream. Don't be afraid to live and dream big because I know in my life, I've allowed fear sometimes to paralyze me and fear can definitely do it. Don't be afraid to dream. Don't be afraid to go and achieve your goals."
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